Every April, I take my son bowling. Sure, we go a bunch during the rest of the year, but our April trip is a special one. When we get together with a handful of friends (and a bunch of strangers) in April to send those shiny balls down the lane, we’re doing it to raise money for abortion access. Yes, that’s right: since my son was old enough to bowl, he’s been coming with me to bowl for abortion.
As someone who has been involved in reproductive justice since I was a teenager, having my own child only fortified my determination that every person should have the right to choose when it comes to pregnancy and family planning. My pregnancy was very much wanted (and took a while to achieve), but after going through it (and then labor and those newborn days), I could only wish that everyone should have the right to choose this sacred responsibility.
And so we bowl.
Abortion access in this country is precarious. While the Supreme Court ruling of Roe v. Wade protects a person’s right to an abortion, subsequent rulings give states the opportunity to enact their own restrictions surrounding it. That means that some folks may have to travel hours or even out of state in order to receive necessary medical care. That means that some folks may have to take a number of days off work between the initial appointment and the one that follows a mandatory waiting period—waiting periods that explicitly reinforce the idea that those in charge don’t trust women.
And, of course, there are costs to consider. Many folks, but particularly low-income women, can really struggle when it comes to affording an abortion (they can cost anywhere from $300 to over $3,000 depending on many factors). Despite what some politicians will have you believe, no federal money goes towards funding routine abortions, which means those on Medicaid need to find another way to afford the costly procedure.
I’d love to see taxpayer-funded abortion, but until then: enter Abortion funds. These funds (which you can check out via the national page) help those seeking abortion be able to afford one. Every year, they have an annual fundraising event, where participants raise money and go bowling. Everyone wins, from the organizations who stock up their coffers, those that will eventually access them, and everyone who loves to bowl.
But why do so many mothers and families participate? At least, in my neck of the woods, we have a bunch of families join the fun(draising). One key factor is that many of us know someone who has had an abortion, or in fact may have had one ourselves. One in three women have had one, so odds are, someone you know has had one.
There’s also the fact that 59% of those seeking an abortion are already mothers. That’s something it’s hard for many to believe: the majority of folks who access abortion care already have a family. And what they’re doing? That’s family planning, just—perhaps—in a different way than you might have imagined.
If you’re wondering, it’s really not that hard to explain to a child what and why you’re doing something, even bowling for abortion. My son is now 10 and understands what abortion is. He understand how babies are “made,” and also understands that not everyone is ready to have a child, or that some are obstructed for other reasons, like their health or problems with the pregnancy. When he was younger, I couched it in different terms. I explained that we were helping raise money for people who needed to see a doctor but couldn’t afford it. That they want to be control of what happens to their bodies.
Because that’s exactly what we are doing. When we bowl, when thousands of folks around the country bowl this April, we’re doing so to ensure that women across the country are able to retain their bodily autonomy so they can decide how they want to create their families, just like I did. And because—honestly—I have no idea what the future will hold when it comes to reproductive justice in this country.
This year, with the climate so precarious, the national Bowl-a-Thon has raised over one million dollars: “$1 million is what happens when we refuse to accept the failures of a government that uses our tax dollars but will not spend them on the care we need,” their statement reads.” It’s what happens when we take power into our own hands. It’s what happens when an average donation of $47 and more than 20,000 donations create an avalanche of support. This is what organized resistance in service of abortion access looks like.”
We need to continue to stand up and show up, so there’s no mistaking that people care.